Date: 24th February 2018 at 7:29pm
Written by: Neil Dawson

Bournemouth`s ability to never know when they are beaten allied to Rafa Benitez`s continental approach to being 2-0 up served up a comeback draw for the Cherries at a bitterly cold Dean Court this afternoon.

Newcastle, two nil up and missing chances in cruise control will be the most disappointed with a point while Bournemouth will just be happy to keep the distance between the sides in a relegation battle that is starting to resemble shooting fish in a barrel.

As predicted Eddie returned to 4-4-1-1 this afternoon, the inevitable conclusion after any defeat using another system, with King slotting into the hole as Ibe missed out through illness. The home team started the brighter too with Gosling stealing in to head over when he had much more time and Wilson seeing a shot well parried by the impressive Dubravka.

This start fizzled out though, Newcastle gained in ascendancy with Shelvey the dominant force, something he went on to be for the first 70 mins. The 4-4-1-1 always ends up as a 4-2-4 with three lines and the four ‘forwards` standing in a line left so much room for the toon to operate. It also meant they could press our back six who were isolated. Eddie said after the game he didn`t understand our start – he will when he watches the video, it was ridiculously easy to spot.

Newcastle took the lead when Shelvey`s masterful pass released Ritchie, who had received a great welcome back. The former favourite reciprocated by not celebrating when his typically accurate cross was fumbled by Begovic as he came together with GAYLE who back-heeled home.

Bournemouth struggled to get back in with visible heads dropping and arguing by the midfield and the forwards, the former screaming at the latter to drop closer to them. Newcastle knocked the ball around with ease and Bournemouth`s rare forays were characterised by the forwards being beaten to the ball easily or Gosling giving it away with alarming frequency. Stan volleyed narrowly over a great chance and Daniels fizzed another effort just over but it was pot-shots only for the home side.

The nightmare half was wrapped up with a late Newcastle second. From a poorly cleared corner Dummett boomed a great cross into the six yard box that Begovic should have come for but didn`t. He then missed Perez`s resultant low cross and GAYLE stood unmarked to poke home his second. Shameful defending or ‘a self inflicted wound` as Eddie described both goals.

HT Bournemouth 0 Newcastle 2

The second half started with Smith at left-back for Daniels who was limping. No change in formation though and as a result Newcastle were soon back in the rhythm and Bournemouth back in disjointed mode. This was the spell that the toon will rue as they missed two gilt edged chances to bury the game for ever. Firstly Perez leaned back and dollied over from six yards and then Shelvey missed when former Bournemouth loanee Atsu rolled the ball into his path four yards out on the break. Huge credit to Ake though who got across to put him off.

Both chances should have gone in and were pivotal because with twenty minutes left Rafa Benitez thought enough is enough and started withdrawing forwards for defenders and waving his team back when they attacked.

Howe, sensing this, threw on the increasingly talismanic Mousset – a player who seems to get the team going without us really being sure how sometimes. The last twenty minutes was attack v defence and it just became about whether we could break the habit of the game and fashion a chance. We did? and Dubravka brilliantly kept out Cook`s header.

It was going to take an unusual goal and thankfully that`s what we got. King and Cook played a clever interchange to set SMITH free and the substitute left back cracked a thunderbolt with his right off the underside of the bar. Game on for the normal North Stand siege!

On came Defoe to a welcome colder than the night from the black and white hoardes and he instantly forced Dubravka into a smart near-post stop. The momentum built and built with Newcastle now not even venturing towards the half-way line let alone over it. A sea of crosses boomed in and, from the last of these in normal time, GOSLING pounced smartly to ping one into the top corner and break his old club`s hearts.

Injury time was like the Alamo as three long throws and four corners besieged Newcastle but they held on to the point they deserved at worst.

FT Bournemouth 2 Newcastle 2

Begovic 5 – Poor today, cost us both goals and not coming for crosses

Francis 7 – On good form today flair in attack and solid defending.
Cook 6 – Solid enough but can`t escape blame for two goals.
Ake 7 – As above but a great challenge on Shelvey saved this game.
Daniels 6 – Quieter than normal – maybe carrying a knock as subbed.

Stanislas 5 – One of his disappearing acts. Bad reaction to crowd too.
Gosling 6 – Awful 1st half, recovered a little in 2nd and pounced well to
Cook 7 – Moved it well and very composed under pressure.
Fraser 5 – One of his disappearing acts. Knocked and didn`t revover.

Wilson 5 – Offered little going forwards and slow reactions at times.
King 6 – Woke up second half after a really uneventful first half.

(Subs Mousset 6 – good presence and one twos – Smith 8 – livened it up no end, Defoe – too short time)
Verdict
A real get out of jail card. Newcastle must be kicking themselves as they gave way too much respect to a team clearly out of form. Taking off the pace of Gayle and going to one up front, bringing on centre halfs??..they gambled on us not creating chances when they could have played the game out easily. Still credit to Bournemouth who played their way back into form with the space they were given at the end and the never say die attitude in a crucial six pointer could be crucial come the end of the season.

The perplexing thing is where has the form gone. My view is that I can`t believe we have gone back to the 4-4-1-1 with King in the hole that didn`t work for the whole first half of the season. He isn`t used right there, it stops the ball getting to Wilson and nobody breaks the lines to drop deep and link play. Watching the front four stood with hands on hips and then reacting second to any ball played to them on the ground is just embarrassing.

Why get rid of a formula that looked so good against Arsenal and Chelsea on the back of one off-day at Huddersfield. It takes a run of epic losing proportions before Eddie ditched 4-4-2 but he gets shot of any other system on the first poor game. The whole side looked disjointed and if Newcastle hadn`t given up attacking we would have lost this by three or more. Hopefully Eddie realises this – and doesn`t see it as vindication of a formula that has produced some of our dullest home games in years this season.

Encouraging points were getting Smith back in the side, how he is not an automatic starter only Eddie knows. Also the belief there are always goals and Mousset`s cameos.

Worrying points were the off-colourness of the front four – all of whom looked completely different to the last few home games. Dare we admit to missing Ibe – I think we did! Also the lack of grip in midfield when we are up against a deep play-maker like Shelvey. Cook and Gosling won`t get close to him and because King is not a number ten, he is a nine all day long, he didn`t go near him either allowing the bald maestro the freedom of the pitch.

Good point and exciting end??? hopefully lessons learned with damage minimal.

Report by Neil Dawson